San Diego Rock ‘n’ Roll Training Strategy and The Black Cactus

As mentioned previously, I recently began training for the San Diego Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon that takes place on June 1. When preparing for a marathon, I always create a personalized training plan that incorporates aspects from the various (free) training calendars I can find online.

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But before I jump into what plans I parsed and the specifics of my training, I want to emphasize something I think is more important than the workouts themselves—and that’s attitude.

Prior to the 2012 Olympics, I read a profile article in the Wall Street Journal entitled “Going for Gold—or Whatever” about Abdi Abdirahman. Abdirahman came in third in the Olympic Marathon Trials in Houston, and thus was one of the three male runners representing the USA in London during the Olympic Marathon. Despite the completely misleading (and in my opinion, frustratingly negative) article title, I was instantly drawn to the attitude Abdirahman had towards running and training. He was laid back and while he trained rigorously, he consciously made a point never to compromise his love for the sport by overtraining.

To summarize the article and Abdirahman: he watches basketball, he parties, he calls himself the Black Cactus, he is uber fast and he loves to run.
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The running community is filled with Type A individuals, and my inability to stick perfectly to a training plan or a nutrition plan often deflated me, discouraged me and made me feel less worthy. However, after reading about Abdirahman’s story, I realized that I’m simply not a Type A runner—I never will be and that’s okay. Sometimes I choose dinner with friends over an easy run. And sometimes I eat a carne asada burrito and a quesadilla at 2:30 a.m. after drinking too much on a Friday night, and not surprisingly, my long run suffers the next day. Sometimes, I’m tired and simply don’t want to run.
Quote from the WSJ profile of Abdirahman

Quote from the WSJ profile of Abdirahman

My point in referencing this article is not to say that I often slack, to speak negatively about Type A runners or to glorify bad habits such as partying and unhealthy eating. No, my point is to explain the kind of runner I am. I’m a space cadet who goes with the flow and usually doesn’t plan further than 5 minutes in the future. I love running and I don’t want a stringent training schedule to dampen that love.

To summarize me: I’m young, I’m poor, I make bad decisions, I run and I love to run marathons.

With that said, while I create a detailed training plan for each race, I bend the rules occasionally. And now that I’ve got all that out of the way, let’s talk about my training. For this race, I used the following training plans and workouts:

  • Hal Hidgon provides an overall solid strategy. He makes things simple and idiot proof, two things I often need in my life. Follow his plans, and you’ll run the 26.2 miles. I used his advanced plan as a base, however I also incorporated other elements, as I feel that Hidgon wouldn’t push me enough to get the PR and BQ that I am gunning for.
  • The Hansons Marathon Method provides a unique strategy in that the longest run is a 16 miler. I’ve done this technique before and found it worked just fine. In fact, my longest training run had been only 15 miles when I achieved my current PR. However, what I enjoy about the Hansons’ strategy is that it organizes the week so that you’re legs will be sufficiently fatigued the day of your long run. By incorporating tempo or pace runs and high mileage in the days leading up to your long run, you’re forced to run long distances on dead, beat and tired legs—great preparation for the last 10 miles of a marathon. While I have runs longer than 16 miles in my training schedule, I did mimic Hansons’ organization strategy so I will be doing my weekly long run on fatigued muscles.
  • Yasso 800’s are a simple type of run that I’ve never done before and decided to try. The concept is simple—if you want to run a 3:30 marathon, run a 4×800 interval workout and make sure to run each 800 in 3 minutes and 30 seconds. Each week, add an additional 800 interval to the workout until you reach 10×800. The theory—if you can run 10×800 with each interval in 3 minutes 30 seconds, you can run a 3 hour and 30 minute marathon. The only change I made to this workout is that I will do 4×800 for two weeks, then 5×800 for two weeks, then 6×800 for two weeks and so on.

I’m not going to post my full detailed plan, but below I’ll give you an idea of what a typical week looks like. I’ve included an image of my calendar and, as you can see, I include little notes about changes to the schedule. Keep in mind, that while I have Sunday as a rest day, I usually end up missing one workout a week and pushing everything back a day to get in all the workouts. I know consistence is important and it would probably behoove me not to rotate my rest day, but as aforementioned…that’s just not me.

  • IMG_3880Monday: Easy Run, ranging from 4 – 6 miles
  • Tuesday: Yasso 800’s at a 3:30 pace
  • Wednesday: Easy run, 4 – 10 miles
  • Thursday: Tempo, Fartlek, Progression or Easy Run, 4 – 10 miles
  • Friday: Race Pace Run, 4 – 10 miles
  • Saturday: Long Slow Run, 6 – 20 miles
  • Sunday: Rest

Okay, there you have it. Thoughts? Suggestions? Opinions? Let me know!

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